The Scottish Fold – Breed Cat Information

The Scottish Fold - Breed Cat Information
The Scottish Fold - Breed Cat Information
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The Scottish Fold Cat- Breed Cat Information

Scottish fold Cat – One day in 1961 near the village of Coupar Angus in the Tayside region of Scotland, a shepherd named William Ross paused on his way home to look at a white cat playing in a neighbor’s yard. Caught up in her game, the cat took little notice of Ross; but there was something about the youngster… At this point background music should begin to swell poignantly while the camera zooms in for a tight, full-frame shot of the white cat’s head, revealing why she has caught the sturdy, middle-aged shepherd’s eye: The white cat’s ears are folded demurely forward.

Scottish fold Cat – If You Knew Susie

William Ross and his wife, Mary, were cat fanciers. They owned a seal point Siamese female, and although they did not attend shows, they bred and sold an occasional litter of Siamese kittens. When Ross told his wife about the unusual cat he had seen in their neighbors’ yard, Mary was intrigued. Within days, no doubt at some urging from Mary, William paid a visit to the neighbors, whose name was McCrae. They were unable to provide details about the cat’s origin, but they promised that if she ever had fold-eared kittens of her own, they would give one to the Rosses.

“I don’t have any idea how those people came to own the cat,” said Mary Ross from a retirement home in Scotland a quarter of a century later. “We gave her the name Susie. Nobody ever knew her mother, nor the father, nor whether they had folded ears or straight ears.”

Scottish fold Cat … Then Fold Again

About a year after William Ross had visited the McCraes, Susie took up with a local tom and had a litter of two, a male and a female. Both developed folded ears. The McCraes gave the male to some friends, who had him neutered and kept him as a pet. They gave the female to William and Mary Ross. She had a short, snow-white coat like her mother’s. The Rosses named her Snooks.

Three months later Susie was killed by an automobile on the road in front of her home. “Fortunately,” said Mary Ross, “Snooks was a good and prolific mother,” and when some of her kittens developed folded ears, the Rosses decided to do what they could to promote and perpetuate fold-eared cats. They acquired a white British shorthair female named Lady May to breed to one of Snooks’ sons. They also registered a cattery name, Denisla (den-EYE-la), with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in Great Britain. William Ross then began to visit cat shows to see if anyone might be interested in cats with folded ears. A judge at one of the shows told him to contact Pat Turner, a Londoner with a degree from the Royal College of Art, unstinting energy and an unyielding interest in cat breeding and genetics. “The Rosses wrote to me early in 1967,” Turner recalled. “At that stage, they still referred to their cats as lop-eared, after the lop-eared rabbits. I visited them to check their cats and to bring one home with me for test mating.”

Scottish fold Cat – Seventy-Six Kittens Later

The Scottish Fold - Breed Cat Information
The Scottish Fold

Turner went home from her visit to the Rosses with a one-year-old, white, fold-eared male named Snowdrift, whom she sneaked onto the train on which she was traveling. Snowdrift was bred to a number of British shorthair females. Breeding the offspring from those unions to one another and sometimes back to Snowdrift, Turner produced 76 kittens during the next three years. Forty-two had folded ears and 34 had straight ears.

Turner and Peter Dyte, a British geneticist with whom she conferred about her work, agreed that the gene mutation responsible for folded ears is a simple dominant. If a kitten inherits one gene for folded ears and one gene for straight ears, that kitten will have folded ears. Cats that possess one gene for folded ears and another for straight ears are said to be heterozygous for folded ears. When a heterozygous fold is bred to a straight-eared cat, half their kittens, on average, will have folded ears.

Cats that are homozygous for folded ears (i.e., have two fold-eared genes) will produce nothing but fold-eared kittens. The only way to produce a homozygous fold is by breeding one fold-eared cat to another, but this breeding strategy is not recommended because homozygous folds invariably develop mild to serious skeletal abnormalities in the hindquarters and tail.

As the Rosses had discovered already, Turner and Dyte learned that folds’ ears look normal, that is, pasted flat to the head, at birth. After 15 to 25 days, when the cartilage in normal kittens’ ears is beginning to harden, causing them to stand upright, folds’ ears begin developing the crimp that produces their distinctive signature.

Scottish Fold Cat – Another Discovery

Turner also learned that even though Snooks had short hair, she was carrying a longhair gene because several of her kittens had long hair, and longhaired kittens must inherit a gene for long hair from each of their parents. Some of the British Shorthairs to whom Snooks was bred also carried a longhair gene, the result of GCCF’s allowing breeders to cross their British Shorthairs to Persians.

Despite the presence of longhaired kittens in Scottish fold Cat litters, fold breeders sought recognition for shorthaired folds only because they anticipated some trouble gaining recognition for their singular-looking cats. “I advised the Rosses not to breed longhairs,” said Turner, “because those that I saw had such small, tightly folded ears they looked as if they hadn’t any ears at all. I thought that would only make things worse. In retrospect, I’m sorry I advised that. The longhairs I’ve seen have been just lovely. It’s so nice to see a longhaired cat that hasn’t got a piggy face, and the other thing I like is that the longhairs don’t have the great woolliness of undercoat you see on Persians.”

Scottish fold Cat – Out and About

Turner exhibited Snowdrift, who was still owned by the Rosses, in classes for non-pedigreed cats at several GCCF shows. “He was even featured on British television,” she said, “and made news stories all over the world.” Finally, Turner renamed the breed, persuading the Rosses to call their cats folds instead of lops because the cats’ ears were not altogether similar to rabbits’.

The revolutions that enlivened music, hair, and lifestyles in Great Britain during the 1960s did not extend to the cat fancy, and most British Shorthair breeders were not pleased to see “their” breed used to establish the Scottish Fold Cat. “People wrote all kinds of nasty articles when we first had these cats,” said Mary Ross, who moved to a retirement home after William had died in 1982. “They said we were breeding deformed cats on purpose. They accused us of breeding just for the money, but we never had any profit from the cats. We were out of pocket, actually. We used our savings to keep the cats in good condition. At one point, someone even sent the health and welfare inspectors to our house. That’s just how people are, you know.”

Scottish Fold Cat – Get Off My Cloud

Opponents of fold-eared cats eventually prevailed with the GCCF, which announced in Fur & Feather magazine that “no applications for registration or show entries may be accepted for the Lop-Eared cats.” The reason for banishing folds, said GCCF, was their ear configuration, which “will almost certainly lead to an increased incidence of ear disease on account of the poor natural ventilation of the ear canal and difficulty in cleaning and applying any medication.”

In reality, folds are no more prone to ear disease than are any other breeds, nor are their ears more difficult to clean or to medicate. Also erroneous was the charge that folds are prone to deafness. There were several deaf folds among the earliest members of the fold congregation, but their deafness resulted from their being blue-eyed whites, which are subject to deafness no matter what the drift of their ears.

Scottish Fold Cat – The Expatriate Game

The Scottish Fold - Breed Cat Information
The Scottish Fold

Not long before folds were banned in Britain, Turner required a series of orthopedic operations and was obliged to stop breeding cats. She placed most of her folds with people in England, but she arranged to have three folds shipped to Neil Todd, Ph.D., a geneticist in Newtonville, Massachusetts. Todd had learned about folds in an article that Turner and Dyte had published in the Carnivore Genetics Newsletter, which Todd edited. He wanted the folds because he was studying the effects of several mutations in cats.

According to C. William Nixon, Ph.D., an associate of Todd and himself a specialist in genetics, the first litter of Scottish Folds Cat born in this country arrived on November 30, 1971. There were two kittens in the litter. Both developed folded ears. The parents of these kittens produced a second litter the following November, and several other litters were born at Todd’s.

Before long Todd lost interest in his fold research. One of his cats, a fold-eared female named Hester, went to Salle Wolfe Peters, a Manx breeder in southeastern Pennsylvania. Peters had begun looking for a fold-eared cat after seeing an article about folds in the 1971 Cat Fanciers’ Association Yearbook. Shortly after acquiring Hester, Peters imported two folds from Europe, both of them males.

Peters was an enthusiastic friend of the Scottish fold, and her zeal for the breed inspired a tiny coterie of disciples to spread the word about these cats. As a result of their efforts, folds were accepted for registration in 1973-74 by several North American cat registries; and on May 1, 1978, folds became eligible for championship competition in the Cat Fanciers’ Association. They are eligible in all North American associations today.

Ironically, the Rosses’ involvement with Scottish Folds Cat had ended by this time. The intransigence of the British cat fancy and the frustration of seeing 15 years’ effort go unrewarded in Great Britain led the Rosses to give up their cats. Though the sacrifices this hardworking couple had made went unappreciated in their own country, the Rosses will always be regarded as the patron saints of Scottish folds in America.

Into the Mix with Scottish Folds Cat

Breeders in the United States used several shorthaired breeds in developing the Scottish Fold Cat. They were obliged to do this because mating one fold-eared cat to another, as we have noted, produces kittens with skeletal defects. Thus, Exotic Shorthairs, a Burmese or two, and even the occasional Persians can be found among the topmost branches in the family trees of much Scottish Folds Cats. Furthermore, when folds obtained registration status in the United States, one association allowed breeders to outcross to Exotic shorthairs for a brief time. Eventually, the approved outcrosses for Scottish folds were limited to British and American shorthairs.

Although fold breeders made no effort to promote longhairs, no one seemed willing to take the necessary steps to eliminate them either. The only way to remove an unwanted recessive like long hair from a breeding program is to spay or neuter all kittens who inherit that trait and all cats who produce it. Because fold breeders were not unanimously willing to do this — and because some fold breeders continued to use Persians and Exotic Shorthairs in their breeding programs even after it was no longer permissible to do so — longhaired kittens survived without sanction well into the 1980s. The longer they survived, the more likely it became that one day they would achieve championship status.

Scottish Fold Cat – Good Morning, America

No one is certain where or by whom the first longhair folds were shown in this country, but a number of them were exhibited in household pet classes at The International Cat Association’s (TICA) shows in the northwest in 1982 and 1983. A few years later longhaired folds began appearing on the East Coast, and in 1986 a silver-tabby-and-white longhaired male appeared on “Good Morning, America” to help promote TICA’s show in Madison Square Garden. In the fall of that year, TICA’s Scottish Fold Cat Breed Section voted 39 to 1 to accept longhaired Scottish folds, which TICA calls Scottish Fold Cat longhairs, for championship competition. Currently, the breed is accepted by seven of the 10 associations that license cat shows in North America. In some of those associations folds with long hair are called longhair folds. In others, they’re called Highland folds, an attempted reference to the geographical origin of the Scottish Fold Cat. Highland is a misnomer, however, and a source of amusement to Pat Turner.

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